Austin, TX – Right now early voters are considering 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution. Supporters of Proposition 4 say it would give counties new opportunities to develop blighted areas. Opponents claim it could lead to eminent domain abuse. Andy Uhler from KUT in Austin takes a look.
Proposition 4 would amend the Texas Constitution by allowing counties to finance the development what are termed, "unproductive, underdeveloped or blighted" areas. Democratic State Representative Joe Pickett of El Paso authored the proposition. He says current law already grants cities the right to issue these sorts of bonds. He wants to extend the law to include counties.
Pickett: Counties work independent most of the time from cities. If a county wants to develop a roadway, attract commercial development, capture new values that weren't there before, they can use that money to develop a road.
Pickett says this is essentially an amendment designed to improve county roadways without raising property taxes. And, given the tightening of state and federal transportation budget dollars, he says this is a prudent solution.
Opponents of the proposed amendment say extending the rights of counties to issue development bonds will result in those counties buying up private property from unwilling sellers in these unproductive areas - essentially eminent domain abuse. Michael Quinn Sullivan is the President of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
Sullivan: We disagree with the idea, with the underlying idea, that local government should be taking property from one person and giving it to another. And certainly, we shouldn't then be giving them taxing authority or rather debt making authority to underwrite that activity.
Representative Pickett disagrees that Prop 4 will change a county's power of eminent domain.
Pickett: It is purely, simply a way to capture new growth.
Instead, Pickett feels that the areas where roads and infrastructure are improved should have the right to distribute the money from that growth as they see fit. Early voting continues through next Friday. Election Day is November 8th.
You can find information on all 10 of the Constitutional amendments on the ballot at KERA.org/VotersVoice. The election is November 8.